Tibetan monks stage huge demonstration in central Lhasa

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Radio Free Asia (RFA) yesterday reported a huge protest march through central Lhasa. The report quoted eyewitnesses saying that up to 300 monks walked ten km from Lhasa's Drepung monastery outside Lhasa into the city centre.

RFA's sources said that the monks had set out to march to the Potala Palace in the centre of Lhasa where they intended to demand the release of monks detained last October after they celebrated the award of the US Congressional Gold Medal to the Dalai Lama(1).

The sources said that a checkpoint along the way had been established by the Chinese authorities and that about 10 military vehicles and ten police vehicles had been seen at the checkpoint. According to the eyewitnesses the authorities detained between 50 and 60 monks at the checkpoint but it was unclear where the detained monks had been taken.

Separately, another witness told RFA that the authorities' vehicles then blocked off access by road to Drepung and that other monasteries in and around Lhasa had been surrounded by the paramilitary People's Armed Police (PAP).

RFA also referred to witnesses who reported separately that nine monks from one of Lhasa's other major monasteries, Sera, together with two laypeople, had staged a protest outside the Tsuklakhang cathedral in central Lhasa. The protestors waved banners and shouted slogans loudly and were initially surrounded by onlookers to keep security officials at a distance. Members of the PAP were later able to detain the protestors.

The Associated Press agency (AP) has today reported that Champa Phuntsok, chairman of China's regional government in Tibet, has confirmed the protest march by the Drepung monks as well as the smaller demonstration by the nine monks from Sera monastery.

Matt Whitticase of Free Tibet Campaign said: "China's repression of Tibetan Buddhism and the quickening of Han Chinese migration into Tibet spell long-term disaster for the survival of Tibetan culture and identity, and are bitterly resented by Tibetans. These protests are a powerful reminder of that resentment. China now only has itself to blame that Tibetans are determined to use the spotlight of the Olympics to focus the world's attention on decades of Chinese repression in Tibet."

The protests inside Tibet took place on the 49th anniversary of the Tibetan Uprising of 1959(2) and were part of an escalating series of Tibetan protests and actions worldwide. The BBC reported yesterday that between 1000 and 3000 Tibetan exiles and their supporters had gathered in central Kathmandu to mark the anniversary and to protest against China's ongoing occupation of Tibet. Up to 80 Tibetan protestors were arrested, it was reported. Meanwhile, also on 10 March, several hundred Tibetan exiles started on a march from Dharamsala, India, to Tibet. The marchers aimed to arrive at the Tibetan border on 8 August, the day the Beijing Olympics open.

Ends

(1) Drepung monastery was the scene of a major disturbance last October after monks clashed with police. The clashes were sparked after Chinese security officials entered Drepung monastery to stop monks from offering prayers for the long life of the Dalai Lama after the Dalai Lama had been awarded the US Congressional Gold Medal of Honour.

(2) On 10 March 1959 tens of thousands of Tibetans rose up against Chinese rule. In the ensuing Chinese crackdown, tens of thousands of Tibetan men, women and children were killed and the Dalai Lama fled into exile.

Matt Whitticase
Press Officer, Free Tibet Campaign

Notes:

For further information please contact Matt Whitticase at matt@freetibet.org
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